The Most Famous Man in America
In this year's winner of the Pulitzer Prize for biography, Applegate takes a fascinating look at the life of the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, brother of the writer Harriet Beecher Stowe. An energetic Congregationalist clergyman and outspoken abolitionist, Beecher achieved renown during the mid-1800s, when his Plymouth Church in Brooklyn drew people from all over the country. He was a charismatic speaker, a powerful writer and one of the first public personalities in America who could rightly be termed a celebrity. His perception of God as a merciful rather than an unforgiving figure was a new and welcome view, as was his overall take on Christianity, which he believed could serve as a path to happiness and forgiveness. Well-connected socially, he appreciated books, music, art and although he was married the company of women. When well-known feminist Victoria Woodhull publicly accused Beecher of committing adultery with a member of his church, her claims made national headlines. A trial ensued that absorbed America's attention almost as much as the Civil War. How Beecher fared after the scandal makes for a gripping historical tale. Readers with an interest in American history will relish Applegate's well-written, engaging narrative.